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News: 2021

 

Posted: Sun 2nd May 2021

There are still places available in the hall for our service on 23rd May at 10.45.   

Please contact Stella on clarkest@mybroadband.ws or 01524 791292 if you wish to attend. 

There will be further live services in the coming weeks so please book ahead if you can.

Thanks,

Stella

 

Posted: Wed 28th Apr 2021
Dear Friends,
Trust you are all doing well and enjoying the lovely spring weather.
As I mentioned at the start of the month this is the last of the weekly thoughts - things are moving on.
Thanks again for all your contributions: I have used some of your personal stories in the thoughts, thank you for allowing me to do so. I am grateful for all the positive, reflective and sometimes challenging feedbacks received.
Take care and stay blessed,
Irene
 

Thought for week beginning 24th April 2021

 

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name…and do not forget how kind he is Psalm 103:1

Now in his 70s’, and with increasing health concerns impacting his day-to-day living, Walter, is needing to slow down. He used to be an active outdoor individual, who was a very keen bowler, winning trophies, but not anymore. Yet, he says: In our day to day life, we are given the choice to be positive or negative in the way we live. So, I get up in the morning, thanking God for another new day, and enjoy what the day brings. Here’s a man whose choice of focus, helps him not to become overwhelmed by his health concerns and challenges of the day. So also, it was with the psalmist, who did not place his confidence and faith in his circumstances, ability or resources, but in the goodness and greatness of God. His trust compelled him to proclaim: Bless the Lord, O my soul; and do not forget how kind he is. Psalm 103:1.

Friends it's easy to fall into the trap of expecting much from God, but appreciating little. In challenging times, we tend to become anxious, depressed, and afraid, because of our choice of focus – we tend to focus on the negatives, rather than on the God whose kindness is not diminished by the circumstances of life. As we move into a new phase with churches beginning to look forward to reopening for physical worship, there will be new opportunities to meet up with family, church members, friends, and strangers who might become friends, so let’s shift focus and stay positive and imbue others with positivity. 

Also, as Walter does, we too can choose to thank God for each new day and the life he gives us to enjoy it. Let’s develop the habit of focusing daily on at least three things that we are thankful for, as this would help us from losing heart and becoming negative. Among other things, today, I’m thanking God for: 1. Jesus and his sustaining grace in the midst of the global challenge. 2.The opportunity to talk and laugh with family and friends. 3.The lovely spring weather, the flowers and the birdsong. What are you thankful to God for today?  

I find the words of the hymn below to be helpful:

 

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

(Hymn: When upon life billows, published 1897, Johnson Oatman) 

 

Looking forward to our churches reopening for worship and other activities soon.

Blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sat 24th Apr 2021

Dear Friends,

“Yet more than ever believers were added
to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women,
so that they even carried out the sick into the streets,
and laid them on cots and mats,
in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some
of them as he came by”.
(Acts 5: vs. 14 – 15)

Luke records in Acts the energy and spiritual dynamism of the early church as they demonstrate life as resurrection community through the power of the Holy Spirit. Many signs and wonders were being done the Apostles.

From the passage above we see how people lay the sick on the street hoping that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and that they might be healed. Later on, Luke makes the bold claim that all who were brought to the Apostles were healed. The early church grew numerically because of the powerful healing ministry of the church. This leads us to the conclusion that the church has to be a place of healing.

By healing the sick and the lame the Apostles were bringing those who were vulnerable and excluded back into the fold. In God’s Kingdom all are to be included. Exclusion brings division. Healing opens the door to new opportunities and potential new horizons.

That is why we need to see those signs and wonders of healing and reconciliation in our own communities. Healing can take the form of feeding the hungry, providing warmth and conversation to the lonely, offering sincere words of welcome and support to those who are refugees.

The resurrection was an act of healing. Our broken relationship with God was healed through Jesus. On that first Easter Day the risen Jesus said to the disciples “Peace be with You!”. Peace with God and with ourselves is part of the healing process.

The question we need to ask is how can we open ourselves up to the power of the Holy Spirit to allow us as a church to become a source of healing? Our worship needs to be a source of deep healing and loving acceptance that draws people into the presence of God. Simply put our lives must powerfully reflect the peace of God offered to us in Jesus.

When the church is seen to be a place of peace and healing then people will recognise that God is in the midst of his people and God’s kingdom will grow.

With every Blessing,

Reverend John Gordon.
April 2021.

Posted: Sun 18th Apr 2021

Thought for week beginning 11th April 2021

Last Sunday, we celebrated Easter day, but that does not write finish to our Lord Jesus Christ – His story is never ending. There is life springing from the resurrection, that leaves us with a faith that must be lived out and acted upon: We are called to renew our engagement with Jesus Christ, to deepen our relationship with him, who, because of his death and resurrection, has given us newness of life, and new hope, that is not restricted to this life but is for eternity.
The story is told of a Rabbi and a soap maker who went out for a walk together one day. As they walked along the soap maker said to the Rabbi: What good is religion if all this misery and suffering exist? The Rabbi said nothing. They continued walking until the Rabbi noticed a child playing in the gutter. The Rabbi said: Look at that child. You say that soap makes people clean, but see the dirt on that youngster. Of what good is soap? With all the soap in the world the child is still filthy. I wonder how effective soap is after all. The soap maker protested: But Rabbi, soap cannot do any good unless it is used. Exactly, replied the Rabbi – So it is with religion. It is ineffective unless it is applied.
So, it is with us and our profession of faith in Jesus. We need to continue to apply our faith belief in practical terms in our everyday living reality, getting on with the work God has given us. Our words and our actions must proclaim the resounding message that we serve a living Saviour who is active in the world today. As the Easter story continues, we need to be a part of it, by allowing ourselves to be renewed afresh by God’s Spirit, even as we embrace the new beginnings and possibilities that beckon.

Below is a photo of the cross we displayed in our window during Holy Week, and decorated on Easter day, as a symbol of new life and new hope.
Take care and blessings
Irene John


 

Posted: Sat 10th Apr 2021

 Happy Easter to everyone from all at Garstang URC.

Posted: Sun 4th Apr 2021

 Dear Friends,                                                  Easter Day 2021.

 
“Christ is risen. The stone is rolled away. Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
We enter into Easter Day to be surprised by the Risen Christ finding ourselves and our world transformed by the gift of love from God. As the Apostle Paul writes:
 
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away;
see, everything has become new!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
 
Paul captures the beauty of that first Easter Morning as a new creation, that everything has become new. Each new day brings new hope and new possibilities. It is all too easy to carry weight of unfulfilled hopes and dreams and failures. These burdens like to tomb stone has been rolled away.
 
The Easter Day new creation has inspired people all over the world throughout history to move beyond fear and hatred to hope and reconciliation. The Corrymeela Community was established in Northern Ireland to offer a vision of community in a land struggling with sectarian violence. The hope of Resurrection in a broken world was worth praying and working for. It is the hope of a new creation.
 
“Together is better” is the mission statement of the Corrymeela Community. This captures the Easter Day vision of a new creation. Paul continues to teach the Corinthian church: “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”
 
This is a profound conviction. God has given to us the task of reconciliation of being peacemakers in our broken world. Keeping score of wrongs done is not part of God’s game plan. That was shown to us on Easter Day.   
 
In this task of reconciliation Paul calls each of us as an ambassador for Christ. As Easter people we are called to move beyond the brokenness of the world into the healing light of God’s kingdom.
 
Mary and the first disciples were initially confused when they first encountered the empty tomb. They thought it was impossible that maybe the body had been stolen. Then Jesus came to them and then to many others. Likewise, Jesus has come to each of us. We have been drawn into the light and love of God’s kingdom. Likewise, God has come to us in the days of our own living. On this Easter Day the gate of everlasting life has been opened to us for from now on we now live in the power of God. 
 
With Easter Blessings,
 
Reverend John Gordon.
 
Posted: Sun 4th Apr 2021

All services will be on Zoom.

April   1st      7.00pm      Rev John Gordon & Rev Irene John     Communion for Agape


April   4th    10.45am     Mike Hart                                Easter Sunday Communion


April 11th    10.45am      Rev Irene John


April 18th    10.45am      Rev David Greenwood


April 25th    10.45am      Rev Irene John

Posted: Sun 28th Mar 2021

 

Posted: Sun 28th Mar 2021

Thought for week beginning 28-3-21, Palm Sunday


Look, your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).


The first Palm Sunday was a day full of contradictions: instead of riding into Jerusalem on horseback, Jesus entered on a donkey which was a symbol that He was coming in humility as the King of peace, not as a political hero. Jesus came to serve and give his life, to put us right with God. So, the celebratory Palm Sunday hymn – All glory, laud and honour, becomes the Passion Sunday hymn; Ride on ride on in majesty, in lowly pomp ride on to die. The contradiction continues with the palm carpeted passageway, leading to a royal throne, becoming instead a lonely path to a cross. Every moment of the week will widen the gap between acceptance and rejection. By the end of the week those who want to be rid of Jesus will have their way and the followers of Jesus would be frightened into silence. In less than a week Jesus would go from being the leader of many to being abandoned by all. Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, the Good Shepherd would become the Passover Lamb.
We can’t help but wonder about the crowd - how many of those who enthusiastically cried, ‘Hosanna’ on Palm Sunday shouted, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him’, a few days later? How much did they understand about Jesus? Was he ruling in their hearts and lives? Like the crowd the challenge is to reflect on the question of how much we understand about Jesus - do we shout hosanna today and crucify on Good Friday? Jesus challenges us to respond to him by moving from religion to a life transforming relationship and commitment to him, for only he can transform the poverty and emptiness of our lives. This week, look at the cross and reflect on the one who died there - for though he was God and worthy of all honour, he did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life a ransom for many. He invites us to serve him in true humility and faithfulness – will you?
Take care and blessings
Irene John
 

Posted: Sun 28th Mar 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 21st March 2021

 

Dear Friends,                                                                                                             Passiontide 2021

 

Each year my parents would take our annual family holiday on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. One year, I decided to write a message and put it into a bottle and throw the bottle into the sea. My hope was that the message would be picked up on the other side of the world and that the person who found my message would write back to me. I never did get a reply, and was uncertain of course how far my message in a bottle really went.

 

As we begin Passiontide, humbly we reflect anew on God breaking into our world to reach out to us. Jesus’ face is turned to Jerusalem to deliver and complete the work his Father ordained him to do. We acknowledge that Jesus is the fulfilment of a long line of prophets called by God to bring his people back to him, those prophets finding themselves ridiculed and ignored by God’s people who should have known better. 

 

 

“See that you do not refuse to listen to His voice;

for if they who refused to listen to the One

who brought the oracles of God upon earth did not escape,

how much more shall we escape if we turn away

from Him who speaks from Heaven?”

(Hebrews 12:25) 

 

The prophets and patriarchs like Moses had been transmitters, a mouthpiece through which God had spoken, to God’s chosen and holy people. Jesus was God’s own voice from heaven itself speaking directly to those around him. The author of Hebrews sees this direct link with Jesus and heaven, and issues a warning not to ignore what Jesus has said. It can’t get any more real and urgent than this.

 

As we follow Jesus on his Passion journey to the Cross, we are challenged to commit ourselves to God’s love and sovereignty, the only reality there is for us.

 

“Therefore, let us give thanks

because we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,

a kingdom in which we must worship God acceptably,

with reverence and fear,

for our God, too, is a consuming fire”.

(Hebrews 12:28)

 

When Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai the presence of God shook the mountain. With the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem the world is going to be shaken again. Where are we going to place our love and loyalty? Is it to a world where things can be swept away so easily as we have seen in the pandemic, or in God’s kingdom revealed to us in Jesus that cannot be shaken?

 

The writer of the Hebrews arrestingly refers to God as a consuming fire. This is a powerful symbol that allows us to see reality in a different light. We all know that a consuming fire, no matter how large, is very difficult to ignore. We do so at our peril.

 

So, let us listen afresh to the words of Jesus and weigh them against the many words we hear reverberating around the world. For the Word of God will last forever!

 

With every blessing.

 

John Gordon.  

Posted: Sun 21st Mar 2021

Thought for week beginning 14-3-21, Happy Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday, have its origins in the feast of the Annunciation (25th March), chosen to celebrate the motherhood of Mary, Jesus’ mother, and also the mother church.  This has developed into a custom of celebrating motherhood (Mother’s Day), and by extension womanhood in general. Today, in the midst of all the joys and challenges, and complexities of family life, let us celebrate and give thanks to God for our mothers no matter what they are like, or were like, and where they may be. We could be thankful for the positives, even when our circumstances are not what we would have chosen. Our celebration can be an acknowledgement of the fact that the overwhelming majority of mothers, and mother figures, try to demonstrate God’s love and tender care - and even when they get it wrong their intentions are usually good. 
We also celebrate with joy and thankfulness, the motherly qualities of the God who protects us, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings (Psalm 17:8 Matthew 23:37). Each one of us is so special that God gave the best thing that He had to save us: His Own Son, Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God demonstrated his parental love for us; a love that is unconditional, non-judgemental and redemptive.
 
A Mother’s Love (Helen Steiner Rice)
A mother’s love is something 
that no one can explain – 
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain.
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring, come what may,
for nothing can destroy it
or take that love away.
It is patient and forgiving
when all others are forsaking.
And it never fails or falters
even though the heart is breaking.
It believes beyond believing 
when the world around condemns, 
And it glows with all the beauty
of the rarest, brightest gems.
It is far beyond defining, 
it defies all explanation,
and it still remains a secret
like the mysteries of creation-
A many-splendored miracle
man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence
of God’s tender, guiding hand.
 
Take care and blessings to you all 
Irene John
Posted: Sun 14th Mar 2021

Daleen Ten Cate will be holding a Holy Saturday Retreat, online, on 3rd April 2021 @ 10:30am- 12:00


To Join Zoom Meeting click the link below

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86246349125?pwd=QWNicmhidjBoVG5Fb1BNSFM1OWhtdz09


Meeting ID: 862 4634 9125

Passcode: 024468

 

Posted: Wed 10th Mar 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 7th March 2021.

 

Dear Friends,

 

From his prison cell, Paul writes,

 

And this is my prayer,

that your love may overflow more and more

with knowledge and full insight

to help you to determine what is best,

so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,

having produced the harvest of righteousness 

that comes through Jesus Christ

for the glory and praise of God.

(Philippians 1: 9 – 11)

 

I am drawn to Paul’s phrase in the above passage regarding “having full insight to help you determine what is best”. Is it not a sign of maturity when we realise, we cannot know everything or indeed control events that happen all around us?

 

We know that Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen and violently persecuting the early church. No doubt at the time he thought that his actions were wise and insightful, that he was doing the right thing. However, his actions were lacking in God’s love that results in that “harvest of righteousness”.  

 

We know the story well, how the risen Jesus meets with Paul on the road to Damascus to challenge him about his persecution of Jesus, and how Paul is temporarily struck down blind. Paul’s intellectual and spiritual blindness, is for a while, matched by his physical blindness. This must have been frightening and disorientating for Paul.

 

Again, Paul finds his movements curtailed as he is imprisoned, but as he writes he discovers that he is not hemmed in and closed down but rather begins to see and understand the essential nature of God’s love leading him to a better way of living sacrificially in knowledge and full insight.

 

Edith Stein (1891-1942) was a German academic of repute when she surprised and shocked her family and friends by converting from Judaism to become a Roman Catholic and a Carmelite nun. Her Order moved her from Germany to Holland just as the Nazis were tightening their grip on every aspect of German living.

In reprisals to the Dutch Roman Catholic Bishops who stood up for the Jews in Europe, the Nazis deliberately arrested Edith and thus she was taken from Holland to Auschwitz. Edith’s insight born out of God’s deep love was that she wanted to share in the pain and suffering of her people, the Jews, in their moment of profound catastrophe and vulnerability.

 

Edith’s journey to Auschwitz had a profound effect on those experiencing the same transportation to the camp. One Jewish woman wrote to her sister that she had just met two German nuns who had been arrested because of their Jewishness. “What an extraordinary impact they made on those they met even just for a few moments on the train”. Edith was canonized by Pope Paul II in 1998.

 

Paul in prison, Edith en route to a concentration camp, both living and teaching the way of God’s love in difficult and demanding times. Through this love their knowledge and insight of God was greatly expanded and nurtured.

 

With every blessing,

John Gordon

Posted: Sun 7th Mar 2021

The Elders have decided to extend the church Memorial Garden a short distance along the rear wall of the churchyard. This will involve cutting back or removing some overgrown shrubs, and levelling the ground. Management Committee will assist Barrie Mason with that work, which will be carried out when weather and lockdown restrictions permit. The extension will be laid out to match the existing plots. In addition, a new sturdy handrail has been installed along the Memorial Garden path, to provide easier and safer access. The metal handrail was designed and made specifically for us and so quite expensive, but a very generous contribution towards the cost has been received from Nevill Joseph, in memory of dear Hilda, his darling "Snowy". We thank Nevill for this gift, and join with him in fond memories of Hilda.

 

Posted: Sun 28th Feb 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 28th February 2021.

Build on a strong foundation, Matthew 7:24-27.

The above is the theme for this year’s World Day of Prayer (WDP), to be observed this Friday 5th March. The service this year has been prepared by the Christian women of Vanuatu, a small country, located in the South Pacific Ocean. It is an amazing privilege that whoever we are, and wherever we are, as Christians, we can come together and pray around the same theme, as a visible demonstration of what unites us, than what divides us. I also find it meaningful, and of some significance, that WDP happens during the season of Lent, when we think again of Jesus, who lived and died to unite all believers as one.

There is a recognition in this year’s chosen theme: build on a strong foundation, that as Christians our foundation is Jesus Christ, the rock of our Salvation: We need to build our homes, our nations, and the world on the words of Jesus who reminded us about the golden rule – in everything to do to others as you would have them do to you; (Christian Woman of Vanuatu, 2021).

In the chosen passage in Matthew, there is one important difference between the two builders, both hear the words of Christ, but only one acts upon them. As Christians, our verbal professions of faith and loyalty to God, must be backed by doing his will. The foundations we need to build our lives on is Jesus and his words – not just words heard, but words applied, this is what will help us appreciate the good times, but also cope with the storms and battering of life. Below is a Prayer for Vanuatu and the World:

Everlasting God, the God on whom Vanuatu stands, we ask you to help us stand for peace in our families and our nations.
We want to stand against the forces of injustice present in our nations. Give us authority over our Islands and nations.
We pray that we can live in unity, love and peace in the context of ethnic and cultural diversity like Vanuatu and so many places around the world...
Almighty God, protect communities from disasters and suffering. Heal the souls of the people and let them feel your love…Amen (WDP, p.13, 2021)

Take care and blessing
Irene John

Posted: Sun 28th Feb 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 21st February 2021.

Lent 1. Shrove Tuesday 2021.

Dear Friends,

“I will forever believe in second chances and forgiveness, because if it weren’t for those two things I would and should be dead.” So, writes Dedrick D. L. Pitter, an artist, author and poet.

As we journey through Lent, I would like to reflect on the notion of what we call ‘to be given a second chance’.

We can imagine the spiritual high Moses must have felt as he came down from Mount Sinai carrying the tablets containing God’s new Covenant with the Israelites, written with his divine finger. This rush of joy and excitement is quickly replaced by anger and despair as Moses observes the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf. In response Moses destroys the two tablets.

Both God and Moses are angry at the people’s actions, and despite the punishment God inflicts on the Israelites he invites Moses once more to cut two tablets of stone so that he can again write upon them his covenant. Once more God comes to Moses in the cloud upon the mountain, and thus passes before him saying,

“The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”.
(Exodus 34:6)

Here God is offering his people, past and present, a second chance. I was drawn to the above quote from Dedrick Pitter because of its refreshing honesty on the need for second chances. I am not too sure if he would describe himself as a Christian but his words catch the deep sense of urgency in what we would know as the grace of God.

Many ask how the church can grow, especially in these demanding days? We grow by living and modelling a God-centred life where forgiveness and second chances set us apart from the cut and thrust of self-preservation.

Where would we be if the risen Jesus had not forgiven Peter and given him a second chance by inviting him to lead the early church? Paul was given a second chance to become the apostle to the Gentiles, both by Jesus and by those he had set out to persecute.

All too often we fall short of what is expected of us as Christian disciples, yet God offers to us his forgiveness and the daily possibility of that second chance. So, let us in humility respond to God’s generosity by starting afresh, grounded in God’s forgiveness in Christ. The world has many ways of telling us that we are not worth this gift from God, but we are and we should use it wisely.

If God has offered us this second chance then we must offer the same second chance to those that have hurt or ignored us. Once we do then God’s love and light pours into our lives and our world!

With every blessing,

John Gordon

Posted: Sat 20th Feb 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 14th February 2021 - Valentine’s day.

Valentine’s day, also called Saint Valentine or Valentinus day, comes from Valens (Latin) meaning worthy, powerful, strong. This name was used to describe and celebrate many Christian martyrs who lived in ancient Rome. One in particular, was a kind hearted and caring Roman priest, who is said to have loved God with all his heart. He ministered to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire, and also performed weddings for Christian soldiers against the wishes of the Emperor Claudius 11. He was beheaded on 14th February, around 270BC – 14th February, became a feast day, established in his honour by Pope Gelasius, AD 496.

Today the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day has evolved into the romantic and sensual love (Greek Eros). However, as Christians, Valentine’s day is much more than Eros, as it includes brotherly/sisterly, or neighbourly love (Greek Agape). Agape love reminds us of how Christ fulfilled God’s unconditional and sacrificial love for us his brothers and sisters by taking the path that led to his death and resurrection.

An example of agape love, mirroring Jesus’ unconditional love, was presented to us last week, at the Garstang URC Leprosy Sunday service. The worship was led by Paul Moores, (Regional Manager, The Leprosy Mission). It was very moving seeing the commitment of the leprosy mission team in Mozambique, including the changemakers (some disfigured by leprosy), in showing the unconditional love of Christ to other victims of this cruel disease. One of the people featured in the presentation, is Deolina, a mother of two, who was cured of leprosy 15years ago. Touched by the love and care she received, she trained to become a Leprosy Changemaker. She wants to do whatever it takes to help others recently diagnosed with leprosy. The slogan for this year’s leprosy appeal is: Unconditional love - No Matter How Long; No Matter How Far; No Matter What. (To donate or find out more, ask your church treasurer or go to unconditionalappeal.org.uk).

I wonder whether we can say that the above Leprosy Mission slogan is a model of love that we practice? How far are we willing to go to demonstrate the love of Christ to others? We are morally obligated to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. We must love enough to recognise the needs represented by others, and show empathy by responding with appropriate actions.
Remember that the smallest deed we do for someone else is better than our greatest intentions. You are to: do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can (John Wesley)
Please fill in the gaps below, as a reminder that Jesus is God’s valentine gift to us:

For God so lo-ed the world
That He g-ve
His on-y
Begott-n
So-
-hat whosever
Bel-eveth in Him
Should -ot perish
But have -verlasting life (John 3:16)

Take care and blessing
Irene John


Thought of the Week, Sunday, 7th February 2021, by Rev John Gordon.

Dear Friends,

We all like a good story!

We explain ourselves and understand our world by the stories we tell and the stories we listen to. Many of us during this third lockdown may have been reading more to escape from the pain around us. Maybe we are reading our Bibles, poetry and prose to reimagine the world we now live in and to give our days routine, structure and purpose. We are surrounded by narratives that have the power to reshape our lives.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy -

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus….
I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message;
be persistent
whether the time is favourable or unfavourable;
convince, rebuke, encourage,
with the utmost patience in teaching”.
(2 Timothy 4: 1 – 2)

In these words, Paul encourages Timothy to keep pressing home the story, the message, of the Good News of Jesus. In other words, tell people his story of how Jesus has changed his life and how Jesus can change other lives too. People need to be told how Jesus has the power to heal and transform the lives of ordinary people.

This doesn’t have to be more complicated than sharing the stories of our daily life with a friend about how you feel God’s blessing listening to the dawn chorus or watching a beautiful sunset. Love and beauty and our senses are a gift from God. Sharing our personal God-centred stories with somebody explaining how you feel God’s presence walking along the beach has the power to inspire and change.

In his 1972 novel, “A Story Like the Wind”, Laurens Van der Post writes:

“The story is like the wind,” the Bushman prisoner said, “It comes from a far-off place, and we feel it.”

I like the image contained in these words of how the words of a story travel mysteriously in the wind of time from a strange place and yet the story can be felt deep within a person’s soul and change the present circumstances.

So, as we share in conversation our own life story with friends and strangers alike, we allow the Holy Spirit in our lives and between us to awaken our need to find purpose in God’s presence.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 some analysis was done to see how people had coped with the trauma of having their world disappearing around them.
It was observed how Christians coped well because the stories of God’s Covenant and the kingdom of God contained within the Bible gave people of faith not only hope but stability in an ever-changing world.

So, Paul was right to encourage Timothy to press home at every opportunity to share the Good News story of Jesus. We would be wise to do the same.

With every blessing.

Reverend John Gordon.
 

Posted: Sun 7th Feb 2021

Thought for the Week, Sunday, 17th January 2021.

Prayer for Christian Unity  18th – 25th January 2021.

The 18th January starts the Week of prayer for Christian unity. When they were asked to produce the material for 2021 neither the sisters of the Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland nor anyone else could have foreseen the pandemic of 2020 and its long lasting impact on the whole world.

What the Sisters produced was ‘an opportunity to engage with a form of prayer that is both very ancient and yet at the same time so apposite for our times. The ancient rhythm of prayer found in many religious orders and their traditions teach us that when we pray, we pray not just on our own or with those who share the same physical space, but with the whole Church, the Body of Christ, of Christians in other places and in different times…This tradition of prayer and spirituality, despite the things that hurt and separate us, invites us into shared prayer and silence together. Surely a most precious gift in troubled times.’

As the Pandemic continues to rule our lives, both our physical and spiritual well being have been challenged. Our Church buildings have been closed and, those who feel able, worship on line while others to listen to the URC Daily devotion services sent out by mail every week, or find other services on-line. Despite the availability of worship services, many are feeling a sense of isolation from God as well as each other. We may well all be asking ourselves what it means to be part of one church, the body of God when the only time we meet one another is on a screen.

This last year has caused us to reflect on our lives before restrictions were placed on where we are allowed to go and who we can safely meet-our priorities and the things and people that we value, that make our lives whole. 

The service prepared for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity may not take place physically but the message it sends out is to make a space in your enforced lock down space to simply “be” in this place and be carried by the prayer and the reality that it is God, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, who carries us and accompanies us: to ‘abide in Christ’. To find comfort in knowing that God loves us and cares for us and is with us in these bleak days. To know that we do not suffer alone but with the whole body of Christ. Only by spending time in prayer can we develop an inner strength rooted and grounded in God’s love for us which will enable us to more confidently face the challenges of life which face us.

We live in a time that is both troubling and magnificent, an often-dangerous time where we are challenged by pandemics, wars, violence, poverty, racism and climate change. Yet as Christians seeking reconciliation, justice and peace, we also know the full value of a spiritual life, have an immense responsibility and must realize it, unite and help each other create forces of calmness, refuges of peace, vital centres where the silence of people calls on the creative word of God. It is a question of life and death.

Let us unite with the rest of the body of Christ in prayer for one another and the whole of creation putting Christ once again at the centre of our very being.

Jesus said to the disciples, “abide in my love” (John 15:9). He abides in the love of the Father (John 15:10) and desires nothing other than to share this love with us.

Yours in Christ

Sally

Words in italics and other facts taken from https://ctbi.org.uk/week of prayer for Christian unity 2021 resources

Churches together in Lancashire are hosting a service to mark the week of prayer on 24th January via Zoom. Your Elder may be able to give you more details.

Posted: Tue 19th Jan 2021

 

This year our Leprosy Sunday will be held via Zoom. Once again, we are fortunate to have our Regional Manager, Paul Moores, leading the service. Paul is an excellent speaker and full of enthusiasm for the work of The Leprosy Mission (TLM), so please try and support this service. Paul will tell us about this year’s TLM focus on Mozambique and bring us up to date on the work of TLM over the past year. The good news is that any donations given between 24th January and 24th April 2021 will be fund matched by the government, so our gifts will be worth twice as much!

 

Donations can be made to this year’s appeal through me or the Church’s Treasurer. More details in February’s newsletter.

 

Please remember in your prayers those suffering from Leprosy in this time of pandemic.- Both the patients and the staff trying to administer the drug therapy and show the love of our Lord Jesus Christ in a caring way at this extremely difficult time.

 

With my best wishes for 2021.

Mary Thornber.

Posted: Sun 10th Jan 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday,10th January 2021.

Psalm 29 “The Lord of the thunderstorms”

The Psalm set as part of the lectionary for this Sunday is Psalm 29, which the Revised Standard Version which I use for study entitles as “the Lord of the thunderstorms”! It is a psalm of praise in difficult times summoning its hearers to give glory to God. It is a Psalm full of images of a power, strength and majesty in water, wind, and fire – an elemental combination.

Last Saturday evening, BBC2 showed the documentary film “Amazing Grace” chronicling Aretha Franklin’s recording almost 50 years ago of her gospel album of the same name. This is not an album recorded in a secluded studio but live over two nights in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, with an audience – no with a congregation, at the beginning of the film, those assembled are reminded by the Rev. James Cleveland that this is a church and as the songs of praise rise, so does the audience’s response. If you want to watch even a small element of this, it is available on the BBC Iplayer for the next three weeks.

Perhaps the most incongruous moment of the documentary comes as it moves to the second night and, amidst the Pentecostal enthusiasm of the congregation, for a couple of minutes the camera lingers on two familiar figures at the back of the church – Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts.

I’ve just finished reading a recent book “Being Interrupted: Reimagining the church’s mission from the outside, in” which asks questions, reflecting both on one of the author’s experience of ministry in and Anglican/ URC partnership on an estate in Birmingham but also some stories from Mark’s Gospel, about how the church responds when something from outside its norms intrude. With this reference point as I spotted the familiar figures in the film, I wondered what they made of the scene that was in front of them; and equally how did the congregation view their famous guests.

Seven times in our Psalm, the phrase “The voice of the Lord” is repeated. As I read the Psalm again, I wonder whether those who first heard it felt it as a reassuring comfort of God’s presence, or a challenging assertion of God’s purpose and strength. It is a Psalm deeply rooted in images of nature and the unity of God and creation. At times like ours, I’m sure we feel God’s presence intruding in both those ways.

As we journey through this next week, I hope we can take with us the words of the final verse of this Psalm.

“May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!” (Psalm 29 v11 R.S.V.)

Amen

Posted: Sun 10th Jan 2021

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